Medical Training

Students entering the MSTP join a first-year class of approximately 160 students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The medical school curriculum is divided into two distinct parts: the first two years (MD1, MD2) comprise a largely didactic introduction to clinical medicine and the last two years involve a series of clinical clerkships in a variety of clinical settings. Detailed descriptions of each part of the curriculum can be found at the following links: Phase 1Phase 2Phase 3.


The curriculum during the first two years is ideal for MSTP students because it consists of a problem-based learning approach that integrates basic science and clinical medicine, including direct exposure to patient care. Each week begins with a small Problem-Based Learning (PBL) session in which 8 students work with a faculty member to try to solve a clinical case. The rest of the week is devoted to lectures, workshops and laboratories addressing topics relevant to the case. Students meet again on Friday morning in their PBL group to solve the clinical case using the knowledge acquired during the week. Contact time is typically limited to 24 hrs each week to allow time for independent study and electives. The significant free time built into the curriculum allows MSTP students to explore different research laboratories by meeting with faculty, attending group meetings or journal clubs, and even by performing research rotations during the academic year.

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is graded on a pass-fail system.  Students monitor their progress with weekly online self-assessments and take a final pass-fail exam at the end of each curricular block. At the conclusion of the second year, all students take the first part of their medical boards (United States Medical Licensing Exam, USMLE).  Satisfactory completion of the first two years of medical school and passing USMLE Step 1 is required prior to embarking on the PhD portion of their training.

A variety of opportunities and experiences are available for MSTP students to stay involved in clinical activities while they are in graduate school. Once students have completed their PhD research and have filed their PhD dissertation, they return to the third year of medical school. The MSTP provides a two-week clinical refresher course in which returning students participate as unevaluated members of an inpatient medicine team and engage in an intensive course on physical examination and history-taking.  Students then join the MD3 medical school class in a week-long Clinical Foundations course, which provides an introduction to clinical training during the third and fourth years of medical school.


The third year of medical school consists of 48 weeks of core clinical clerkships:  Inpatient Medicine (8 weeks), Ambulatory Internal and Family Practice Medicine (8 weeks), Pediatrics (6 weeks), Obstetrics & Gynecology (6 weeks), Surgery/Anesthesiology/Ophthalmology (12 weeks) and Neurology/Psychiatry (8 weeks). Clerkships can be done in a wide variety of clinical settings, each of which serves a distinct clinical population. These include the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, a tertiary- and quaternary-care hospital; the UCLA-Santa Monica Medical Center, a more community-based hospital; Olive View and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, both of which are county hospitals serving indigent, uninsured populations; Cedars Sinai Medical Center, a private hospital serving an insured population; Kaiser Permanente, one of the country’s oldest non-profit Health Maintenance Organizations; and the West Los Angeles and Sepulveda Veteran’s Administration Medical Centers.


At the beginning of the fourth year of medical school, students join one of the “Fourth Year Colleges,” each of which provides education, mentorship and guidance within specific career pathways. The four Colleges are: Acute Care (careers in emergency medicine, anesthesia and critical care specialties); Applied Anatomy (careers in surgical specialties, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, radiation oncology, ophthalmology and pathology); Academic Medicine (careers that will include research, although MSTP students are free to join other Colleges that fit their interests); and Primary Care (careers in internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry). The Colleges meet for a week at the beginning of the fourth year, and then approximately once a month in an informal setting, such as dinner at a professor’s home.

Students have significant freedom in designing their fourth year curriculum, choosing a variety of elective rotations, sub-internships, “away” rotations at other institutions (e.g. at programs where they may be interested in doing their residency training), as well as clinical rotations abroad. Six weeks may be devoted to a research rotation, which MSTP students can use to explore new types of research, or to complete research projects in their PhD labs. In addition, students can design clerkships that integrate clinical and research activities, such as a dermatology clerkship that consists of mornings in the clinic and afternoons in the laboratory. The fourth year must include 30 weeks of clerkships, 24 of which must include significant clinical activities in order to meet the California State M.D. licensure requirement of 72 weeks of clinical clerkships during medical school.

During the fourth year, students also apply to residency programs. The Fourth Year College, the School of Medicine, and the MSTP provide guidance in this process.


Inset Photo: Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center